February 22, 2021
Through the years Savage has introduced many accurate centerfire rifles for competitive shooting, and the bolt-action B22 Precision will surely keep the company among frontrunners in some of the .22 rimfire races as well. While it was designed specifically for National Rifle League (NRL22) matches, the rifle is quite well suited for other .22 rimfire competitions, and due to its accuracy and match-grade trigger, it would be an excellent choice for small-game hunting and short-distance varmint shooting as well.
The Sport of NRL22
For those who are not familiar with NRL22 competition, it was formed in 2015 and has since been adopted by hundreds of gun clubs in about every state from coast to coast. It is one of today’s fastest-growing .22 rimfire competitions for several reasons, one of which is target distances begin at 25 yards and seldom exceed 100 yards. Most gun clubs can handle that—not to mention that the distance is not intimidating to new shooters.
Various shooting positions—including prone, kneeling, offhand, over a bipod and various barricades, along with natural rests—do a good job of simulating small-game hunting and varmint shooting. Each match consists of multiple timed stages that are easier and less expensive to set up than some of the other types of competition. Targets are mostly steel, but some stages also contain paper targets. Clubs that are NRL22 members receive a packet of new stage layouts each month, and match officials often add a few stages of their own design.
Having two rifle classifications encourages participation by both beginner and advanced competitors. Bolt-action and semiautomatic rifles can be used, and while the sky is the limit on cost and features of Unlimited-class rifles, the manufacturers’ suggested retail price (MSRP) for a rifle/scope combination used in Base-class competition cannot exceed $1,050. Aftermarket barrels, triggers, and other parts that modify the factory-original action are not allowed in Base class, but a bipod can be used and certain modifications to the stock that improve shooter fit are allowed.
The B22’s Features
Whereas target distances at most club matches are restricted to a maximum of 100 yards, targets at the 2019 NRL22 National Match held in Las Vegas were out to 330 yards. And when competitors using standard Savage B22 rifles snatched up three of the top four Base-class prizes, Savage officials decided to make the B22 barreled action even more suitable for competition by dropping it into a one-piece aluminum chassis made by Modular Driven Technologies (MDT) of British Columbia, Canada. With an MSRP of $599, the new B22 Precision can be equipped with a high-quality scope, such as the new Bushnell Match Pro 6-24X 50mm I chose for accuracy-testing it (see the accompanying sidebar on page 40 for more about this excellent scope), without exceeding the NRL22 price cap. Actual weight of the rifle I shot was 7 pounds, 10 ounces, and the Bushnell scope in Weaver 30mm Classic rings along with a Harris folding bipod increased it to a match-ready weight of 10 pounds, 7.3 ounces.
The comfortable cheekrest of the MDT stock is easily adjusted for height by loosening and then retightening the retention bolts of its support posts with no tool required. The rest has to be completely lowered for removal of the bolt, and while there is no memory mark on either of the support posts, one is easily applied with the corner of a fine-tooth file. Length of pull is 14 inches with two 0.25-inch removable spacers beneath a 0.75-inch-thick rubber buttpad. They allow pull to be shortened to 13.75 or 13.5 inches.
The flat bottom and the sides of the fore-end each have four M-LOK slots for accessory attachment, and a single M-LOK slot at the bottom of the buttstock can be used to attach a sling. (By the way, the costs of accessories like a sling, M-LOK adaptors, and scope mounts are not counted against the NRL22 price cap for Base-class competition.) The sling can also be attached to a quick-detach swivel post toward the front of the fore-end. That post was in the right place for attaching the Harris folding bipod that I used during my shooting session.
A palmswell on both sides of the MDT angled grip made it comfortable in my hand as I put the rifle through its paces shooting strong-side and weak-side from various positions. The fit between the barreled action and the stock was solid and precise, with the free-floating barrel nicely centered in the fore-end. According to my trusty Real Avid torque wrench, the two action bolts received 54 inch-pounds of muscle at the factory.
B22 Precision Specs
MANUFACTURER: Savage Arms; savagearms.com
TYPE: Bolt-action repeater
CALIBER: .22 LR
MAGAZINE CAPACITY: 10 rounds
BARREL: 18 in.
OVERALL LENGTH: 36.5 in.
WEIGHT, EMPTY: 7.63 lbs.
STOCK MDT: aluminum chassis
LENGTH OF PULL: Adjustable 13.5 to 14 in.
FINISH: Black oxide
SIGHTS: None; receiver has Picatinny rail installed
TRIGGER: Adjustable AccuTrigger; 2.06-lb. pull (as tested)
SAFETY: Two position
As on millions of other successful .22 rimfire rifles built by various companies during the past century or so, breech lockup of the B22 action takes place when the root of the bolt handle bears on a notch in the receiver wall as the bolt is rotated to its locked position. The tactical-style knob of the handle is nicely shaped for rapid-fire shooting.
Dual-opposed extractors reliably snatch spent cases from a dirty chamber, and a blade-style ejector propels them out through the ejection port without a hitch as long as the bolt is cycled smartly. The two-position safety slide on the tang of the receiver works fine, although the shape of the stock makes it a bit difficult for a thumb to operate. Protrusion of the cocking piece at the rear of the bolt indicates a cocked firing pin.
The 10-round rotary magazine is easily loaded to full capacity, and it clicks home in the rifle smoothly. A light rearward tug on its latch with the trigger finger drops the empty magazine into the palm of the hand.
Examination of the 18-inch barrel with a Lyman Bore Cam revealed smooth six-groove button rifling, and it has the standard 1:16 twist for the .22 Long Rifle cartridge. Measuring 0.81 inch at the receiver and 0.80 inch at the muzzle, the barrel has only a bit of taper. The muzzle is threaded for a suppressor or a muzzle brake, and both are acceptable in Base-class competition. A thread protector is included.
The B22 Precision has the rimfire version of Savage’s extremely successful AccuTrigger, with pull weight adjustment ranging from 1.5 to 5 pounds. My rifle averaged a smooth 33 ounces on a Lyman digital scale with very little variation and no detectable creep or overtravel.
Bushnell Match Pro 6-24X 50mm Riflescope
Bushnell is addressing competitive shooting as seriously as Savage, and both brands are often seen at the same matches. Some of the top competitors in Precision Rifle Series and other long-distance competitions for centerfire rifles are using the Bushnell DBRII Elite Tactical 3.5-21X 50mm. The new Match Pro 6-24X 50mm is sure to become equally successful in various .22 Long Rifle competitions.
As I mentioned in my writeup of the Savage B22 Precision, the MSRP cap on a rifle/scope combination for Base-class NRL22 competition is $1,050. MSRP for the new Bushnell scope is $450 and it is $599 for the Savage B22, so the two represent a match-winning combination under the NRL22 price cap. At an additional cost of $50, the Match Pro scope is available with an illuminated reticle.
When zeroing a riflescope most of us have long been accustomed to reticle movement of 0.25 inch or so for each click of a turret. Some competitors prefer milliradian (or mil, as it is commonly called), which is featured on the Match Pro scope. Each click of a turret moves the reticle 1/10 mil (or 0.36 inch) at 100 yards. Total windage and elevation travel is 18 mils, or 9 mils in both directions from optical center. One complete rotation of a turret moves the reticle 10 mils.
The turret covers have two positions: down for locked and up for rotation. Return-to-zero set for both turrets is quick and easy and requires no tools. After zeroing the rifle, place a turret in its locked position, unscrew the retention cap of its cover, lift the cover from engagement, align its “0” with a white index mark at the bottom/rear of the turret base, replace the retention cap, and you’re done.
All lenses are multi-coated, and Bushnell’s EXO coating on the exterior surfaces of the ocular and objective lenses prevents water from adhering to them during a rainy-day match. Placing the Christmas-tree-shaped Deploy MIL FFP reticle in the first focal plane allows it to be used for ranging targets over the entire magnification range of the scope rather than at a particular magnification, as happens in a second focal plane scope. But because the reticle remains the same size in relation to the image, it appears to shrink in size as magnification is decreased, making elevation reference numbers difficult for me to read below 12X. The reticle also becomes difficult to see with brush or tree foliage in the background. Primary (long) hash marks on the horizontal and vertical crosshairs are spaced 1.0 mil apart, and secondary (short) hash marks between them are spaced at 0.5 mil intervals.
The Match Pro scope has a 30mm tube, weighs 29.8 ounces, and is 14.5 inches long. Respective 100-yard fields of view at 6X and 24X are 18 and 4 feet. Optical quality is quite good, and windage and elevation click adjustments are both accurate and precise. Return to zero was consistently dead on the money. Side-mounted parallax adjustment ranging from 10 yards to infinity makes the scope equally suited for both rimfire and centerfire competitions. A peek into my crystal ball reveals the Match Pro scope and the Savage B22 Precision winning their share of .22 rimfire matches at gun clubs all across America and in other countries as well.
Considering that some .22 Long Rifle competitions (with the Practical Rimfire Challenge being an example) have targets as far away as 300 yards, I was surprised to see the rifle wearing a Picatinny rail with no distance-compensating slant. While it works fine for the .22 LR competitions in which many shooters are involved, a 30-MOA rail is better for shooting the .22 LR at both near and far distances. On the positive side, the rail is attached to the receiver with screws, making it easy to replace with an aftermarket rail with the desired amount of slant.
I would have liked to have seen a match chamber, but Savage’s decision to use a standard sporting chamber makes the rifle suitable for use with all .22 Long Rifle ammunition, including CCI Stinger, Aguila Supermaximum, and other ammo with cases longer than is standard for the .22 Long Rifle cartridge. Minor improvement suggestions aside, I am greatly impressed by the quality and performance of the rifle and found it capable of delivering a level of accuracy and reliability that will keep many hunters and target shooters quite happy.
The new rifle from Savage is also available in .17 HMR (B17 Precision) and .22 WMR (B22 Magnum Precision). Both are priced the same as the B22 Precision.